By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON and JOE LOTEMPLIO Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — If elected to office, Plattsburgh Renewal Party mayoral candidate Chris Rosenquest hopes to give the city’s youth a voice in local government.
To do so, he said during a news conference at the Dock Street Landing, he would collaborate with city educators to create the first Plattsburgh Youth Commission.
“I will engage our youth and our young people to foster leadership, civic participation and to acknowledge outstanding success,” he said.
The commission, Rosenquest noted, would comprise 10 student representatives, who would work directly with City Hall and Common Council subcommittees to learn about local government operations and how to best engage leaders in solving problems.
“We want to solve the problems facing our youth,” he said. “Oftentimes, our young people aren’t considered in the decisions made by City Hall even when those decisions directly impact them.”
“The Plattsburgh Youth Commission is a formal structure for young people to have a voice in decision making at City Hall.”
‘LEADERS FOR LIFE’
Plattsburgh City School District and Seton Catholic Central School students in grades eight through 12 would be encouraged to apply for a seat on the commission by submitting an essay, letters of recommendation, a resume of civic involvements and undergoing a face-to-face interview.
Representatives would propose ways to solve some of the problems the community’s youth face.
“The young people in our city are the next generation of leaders for our community,” Rosenquest said. “The Plattsburgh Youth Commission is an opportunity for young people to develop the necessary skills, confidence and knowledge to be leaders for life, as well as to make a real difference through service-learning programs.
“We want to purposefully engage our young people in civic and community involvement.”
A member of the Office of Community Development, he added, would be appointed to act as a liaison to Plattsburgh schools and foster strong relationships with the community.
“This liaison will not only provide support for schools to participate but will receive feedback from faculty, staff students and parents, constantly improve and update the Plattsburgh Youth Program, as well as develop other partnerships and projects to support and empower our youth and our community,” he said.
‘STARTING YOUNG KEY’
The Youth Commission is one of three initiatives put forth by Rosenquest in an effort to engage the city’s adolescent population.
The mayoral hopeful also proposed developing an annual ceremony to celebrate the outstanding civic achievements of the city’s students and student groups, as well as organizing Destination Imagination competitions for Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.
A nonprofit organization, Destination Imagination runs programs designed to inspire innovation and leadership in students around the world through teamwork and problem solving.
“Active involvement in engaging our youth is key to the future of our city,” Rosenquest said.
“Studies indicate that discussions on civic involvement in a student’s formative years result in those students becoming adults who are more likely to join a political party, be vocal on political and social issues or run for a political office.”
Ward 4 Councilor James Calnon, an independent who is running as the Republican Party candidate, told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that any time opportunities can be expanded for youth from their school years through to their entry into the workforce, it is certainly a good thing.
“Those are the kinds of things that I think are necessary,” he said.
Calnon noted that Rosenquest’s ideas fall in line with initiatives that he has already helped to implement in this area.
For example, during his 24 years as the executive director of the Workforce Investment Board, Calnon said, he worked to get young professionals to both locate to and stay in the area in an effort to diversify the local workforce and grow businesses.
Out of those efforts, he noted, Adirondack Young Professionals was born.
“We’ve been doing these kinds of things for the last 10 to 14 years,” Calnon said.
While he said creating positive opportunities for youth is a cause near and dear to his heart, he added that he isn’t sure it would be the first point he would bring up in his campaign, as he believes there is much more to running a city than that.
‘TIP OF ICEBERG’
Mark Tiffer, the Democratic candidate for mayor, said Rosenquest’s idea is a good one, but he would like to take it a step further.
“That is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“It’s not just about engaging youth. We need to engage everybody in the community and create commissions that can identify and address all kinds of issues.”
Tiffer said a perfect example of the community getting involved is the Saranac River Trail Committee, which helped steer the creation of a 1.3-mile trail along the Saranac River that opened in 2011.
He also said that it’s not enough just to engage the successful youth who are already involved in school and community endeavors.
“We need to engage the students who may be at risk and those that might fall through the cracks and get them more involved, and we can work with the (Plattsburgh City) School District to do that,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org